Georgia Senators fight to keep clean transportation jobs in the Peach State with SK Innovation settlement

Bryan Jacob and Guest Blog | April 14, 2021 | Clean Transportation, Elections, Electric Vehicles, Georgia

Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Brady Watson, former Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, also contributed to this blog post.

Newly-elected U.S. Senators Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff representing Georgia both ardently voiced support for clean transportation jobs and clean energy investments during their campaigns and continued doing so since taking office in January 2021. However, a bitter trade dispute between two rival South Korean companies was poised to have major implications for a $2.6 billion clean energy & clean transportation project – one of the largest manufacturing investments of any kind in Georgia’s history – which drew both Senators into 11th-hour negotiations. 

South Korean company SK Innovation had already begun construction on a $2.6 billion project in Commerce, Georgia expected to employ up to 2,600 people manufacturing electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Then, in February of this year, the International Trade Commission ruled that SK Innovation stole trade secrets from rival South Korean company, LG Energy Solution. That ruling stipulated SK would only be allowed to make EV batteries for Ford Motor Company for four years, and Volkswagen for two. After that time, SK would be banned from importing the components needed to assemble the batteries for 10 years, effectively shutting down the long-term job prospects at the already under construction plant. 

Thankfully, Ossoff and Warnock (as well as other Georgia elected officials such as Governor Brian Kemp) invested time and energy urging the two companies at the center of the dispute to resume talks and eventually helped to broker a $1.8 billion settlement deal that enables SK to provide batteries to both Ford and Volkswagen for their growing EV production. 

We learned over the weekend Senator Ossoff flew to D.C. in early April, less than two weeks before a decision deadline, and met with the chief executive from SK as well as officials from LG urging both companies to strike a deal to avoid scuttling the entire project. 

Senator Ossoff spoke on Tuesday about the significance of this settlement for Georgia as well as for the clean transportation industry in general:

We also learned Senator Warnock met virtually with executives from both companies as well to encourage a settlement, while he pressed the Administration to take action to preserve the plant, and he celebrated the outcome with a post on Twitter:

With the right policies and leadership, the Southeast can grow EV manufacturing that will spur economical development and create more jobs.

We applaud the efforts of both Senators Ossoff and Warnock for their leadership in preserving clean transportation jobs like these in Georgia, and showing how the Southeast can be a leader in the transition to a clean energy economy.

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